Kennedy, both say, was an inspiration in their lives.
“It was not his assassination but his election (that inspired me),” Puro said, “I was interested as a sixth-grader during a mock election we held when Kennedy ran for office. I got extremely interested in politics and I was hooked. I started following all politics in seventh-grade after hearing his famous speech.”
That speech was JFK’s inauguration address in 1961 when he said, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
Puro said he decided on a career of public service to make an impact on his community.
“His words clicked with me,” Puro said. “I answered that challenge Kennedy made and worked with the community to make it better.”
Kauffman said the death of Kennedy didn’t influence him, although he was involved with Young Democrats.
“I didn’t think about (a career in politics) until after high school,” Kauffman said.
The mayor said many young people were influenced by Kennedy since he was the youngest president to be elected. Kennedy was just 46 when he died.
“He sure got young people engaged in volunteer service and politics,” Kauffman said. “He related to the younger generation. He established the Peace Corps and he communicated with the public better than presidents in the past. He was a communicator. He was the first candidate to use TV and he was born in the (same) century. He was the first candidate to use a song in his campaign.”
Arvis Dawson, executive assistant to Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore, was a fifth-grader at Mollison Elementary School in Chicago, Ill. when Kennedy was slain.
“I remember it was the first time I heard a teacher in class say ‘damn,’ after hearing the news,” Dawson said. “We got out of school early and watched the events on a 12-inch black and white TV. It was gloomy the entire weekend. The weather was sad, everyone was sad just watching it on TV. It was a gloomy time for our nation and the weather was the same. It was unbelievable.”